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Thriller Fiction Suspense

This story contains themes or mentions of suicide or self harm.

“I hid Mavis’s keys yesterday.”

“Why?”

“I dunno. Because … because I’m still angry. And because I know she was going to meet him.”

“Jack, we’ve talked about this. You’ve got to stop going over there. It isn’t doing you any good.”

“I know, I know…”

“If you can’t overcome this hurdle, if you can’t face this part of your past, you’re going to remain stuck. Don’t you want to move on?”

“I’m in no hurry.”

“Jack…”

“Of course I do.”

“…but?”

“But I just don’t know if I can unless I talk to her. I need to know why she did what she did.”

“This has nothing to do with Mavis anymore, Jack. This is about you. You are the only person holding yourself back. Your life with Mavis? It’s over. That’s all you need to know. You need to let it go.”

“How can you say that? How can you just sit there and say that to me, like you know me? You don’t know what I’ve been through!”

“I know, Jack. Believe me, I know.”

“No, I’ve told you about it. But you didn’t experience it; I did. Me. Can’t you understand that there are just some things a man has to know?”

“Look Jack, your time is almost up. I have other appointments, but I want you to come back next week and check in with me, alright? Can you do that for me, Jack?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Okay, I’m making a note of it. Same time next week. You promise me you’ll come back, Jack?”

“I said I would, didn’t I? What else have I got to do…”

“Where are you staying in the meantime?”

“I found a little place close to home.”

“That’s not your home anymore, Jack.”

“I know.”

“Just think about what I said, alright?”

“Yeah … yeah, I will.”

“Okay. And Jack?”

“Yeah?”

“Don’t talk to Mavis. It’ll do more harm than good.”

A few moments later Jack found himself meandering down the sidewalk, not really going anywhere, not even really existing. He was fixated on Mavis and as he ambled along thoughts of her danced around in his mind like the dry leaves scraping and scuttling along the ground around his feet. A cool gust of fall wind cut through him, but he didn’t even feel the chill anymore. Jack was numb to the world, to everyone and everything except Mavis.

Passersby on the sidewalk practically walked through him as he went along, head hung, his feet unconsciously turning toward the bus stop where he used to catch the five-forty-five home from work. Jack smiled wryly as he thought about the dull corporate office he used to toil in, about the stuffed shirts and the corporate big wigs, about his fellow blue collar, middle class drones with their pale faces and sunken eyes hollowed out by the dreary, monotonous existence of their tiny, off-white cubicles. 

Good riddance, Jack thought.

Everything had fallen apart after what happened with Mavis. And the worst part of it all was that Jack had no one, nobody in this godforsaken, midwestern sprawl to talk to except “the shrink.” She didn’t like it when he called her that. 

“Think of me as more of a guide,” she’d told him at his first appointment. “I’m here to help you get from Point A to Point B. Point A is where you are now: depressed, alone, aimless, stuck. Point B is the life that’s waiting for you on the other side of all this, Jack. Let’s get there together.”

Jack almost gagged thinking about it. He’d never been one for that sort of thing. The closest Jack ever came to getting in touch with his emotions was the time he visited his brother Rick in Dallas and they had shared a two hundred dollar bottle of Scotch while watching the World Series on Rick’s brand new, three hundred and twenty-five inch extreme home cinema. The ultra high-def resolution was enough to make a man swoon, and Jack had nearly cried when Rick told him he had the option to watch twenty-six different channels at once. That had been a beautiful night.

The hissing squeal of the bus’s air brakes roused Jack from his stupor. He found himself swept up with the crowd into the cramped, sweaty-smelling bus and ushered along to the back. He stood there, just another nameless face in a sea of nobodies doomed to whittling away their precious hours running to and fro on the malodorous metal meat boxes known as public transportation. 

Another stop and the bus swelled to bursting. The heavyset woman in front of Jack was standing on his foot, and the lanky man behind him had one elbow jackknifed into the small of his back. Neither of them seemed to notice. About ten minutes later, Jack began squeezing his way toward the front for his stop. The doors clattered open and Jack tumbled out, thankful for the open air and curious as to why buses only seemed to cater to those poor, miserable few whose parents had never taught them about the glorious invention of deodorant.

Jack wended his way down the dusty county road, his eyes tracing the path he’d walked a thousand times before. He came to a stop in front of a small, plain house with a crooked picket fence and faded blue window boxes that in the summer housed a veritable fireworks display of geraniums. 

Mavis and her geraniums, he thought as he passed through the gate, plodding slowly up the flagstone walkway toward the front door. The flower boxes were all browns and yellows now, the shriveled corpses of flowers tangling together in a brittle mass that rattled like bones when the wind blew through them. A fire engine red sign bearing bold white letters—FOR SALE—leaned just to the right of the front steps.

Jack felt a tiny bit guilty about having lied to the shrink. But he knew that if he told her he’d never left, if she knew he was still living with Mavis, he’d never hear the end of it. The door swung open to his touch and he walked in; the house was quiet as a graveyard, and Jack seemed to bring the October chill in with him. He flitted down the hall, past the living room where the sun shone in through dingy, square-paned windows, past the hall tree where his favorite tattered flannel jacket still hung, and into the kitchen where Mavis sat at a tiny, two-person table beneath the window, sipping her afternoon tea. The steam from her mug swirled gently up into the air, and the only sound was the scratch of her pencil as she wrote with slanted, flowing handwriting in a small, leather-bound journal. Mavis loved writing poetry.

Jack floated silently over to the table and sat down opposite Mavis. She took no notice of him, but continued writing as if he wasn’t even there. Her dark, curly hair fell in ringlets in front of her eyes and cascaded down her shoulders like a shining ebony wave.

“Shrink says I’m s’posed to move on, that I’m s’posed to let you go,” he said softly. 

Mavis said nothing.

“I know it’s over, I know that. I just … I’m not ready. You can understand that, can’t you?”

Jack though Mavis stiffened slightly when he said it, and a small, silver tear trickled down her cheek.

“Mavis?”

She looked up with ice blue eyes, staring straight through him, her lips drawn together in a tight line. She always looked that way when she was writing. She rubbed her arms then as a cool blast of air blew through the kitchen; Jack had left the door open. Rising somewhat huffily, Mavis walked away, out of the kitchen and down the hall. He heard the slam of the front door and took that as his cue. He got up, preparing to hide away in his room for the evening when he noticed Mavis’s poem. It was a simple five lines:

If ever a man, by neglect alone

Could shatter a woman’s tender heart

T’was you, my love, with your heart of stone

Who left me wishing

for “’til death do us part.”

As he left the kitchen, Jack’s hand brushed the journal and the tea cup to the floor with a satisfying shatter. He started up to his room, Mavis’s gasp echoing up the stairwell behind him.

Later that night Jack laid on his bed in the guest room, on top of the covers, staring at a stain on the ceiling and reciting Mavis’s poem to himself in the dark. The phrase “’til death do us part” ran through his head like wildfire. Suddenly, a wave of blind rage overtook him and he leapt up, rushing down the hall to Mavis’s room like a wind. Her door flew open before him with a bang, and a gale force current of air flapped the curtains at her window madly like the sails of a ship on a storm tossed sea. 

With a gasp Mavis sat bolt upright in bed, her face pale in the moonlight. A chill crept into the room and Mavis’s breath, which came fast and shallow, turned into little white clouds on the crisp air. Jack lingered at the foot of her bed, obscured by the shadows. 

“Who is it? Who’s there?” she demanded. 

“Why’d ya do it, Mavis?” 

Jack’s voice was sepulchral in the cold, inky black room.

“Who—”

“I know I drank too much … and I never was the romantic type … but I loved you, Mavis. So why’d ya do it?”

“J-Jack?” Mavis’s eyes bulged out of her head, and she shook beneath the bed sheets. “B-but you’re—”

“Why’d you go and have an affair? Sneakin' around with my best friend like some two-timin’ tramp!

The books and lamp on Mavis’s nightstand scattered to the floor, and she let out a strangled cry. The wind tore through the room like a hurricane, knocking pictures from the walls and wresting one hapless curtain from its rod.

“Go away!” Mavis screamed at him. A wild fear blazed in her clear blue eyes.

“Why, Mavis?” Jack whispered through the howling wind. “Why’d you make me kill myself?”

“No!” Mavis shrieked as she jumped from the bed. Jack stood there as she raced past him into the hall, past the room where he’d swallowed his own shotgun, and down the stairs. There was a scream, a rapid, heavy clunking sound, a sickening crack … then silence. Jack moved slowly towards the top of the stairs—he was in no hurry—and looked down. Mavis lay crumpled at the foot of the stairs, her head at an odd angle, quiet and unmoving. 

“I told you not to talk to her.”

Jack’s guide appeared at his side, a gray-white mist twinkling strangely with a light of its own.

“I know.”

“Are you ready to move on now, Jack?”

“Yeah, sure.”

Jack felt himself beginning to fade, and as he stood looking down at Mavis’s body, two tears like drops of starlight fell from his eyes, evaporating like the morning mist before they ever touched the ground.

“’Til death do us part,” Jack murmured.

And he was gone.

August 28, 2022 17:23

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